How to Stop Emotional Abuse

Abused partners in a relationship can and must learn how to stop emotional abuse. Recognizing emotional abuse is the first step in preventing it.

Emotional abuse is difficult to detect, because unlike other forms of abuse, it leaves no outward signs.

Instead, the damage is emotional. Cruel words and actions can be just as devastating as a punch, if said long enough to affect your self-image. Here are some helpful techniques to recognize and stop emotional abuse.

Types of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse manifests in several ways. There are two basic kinds of emotional abuse: intentional and unintentional.

Many times, emotional abuse happens unintentionally. This type of abuse begins as normal stress that every relationship encounters. The abuser may not even be aware that they are causing harm.

Yelling and conflict becomes part of the normal course of interaction. The yelling is taken too far.

The yelling becomes all too common. When this happens, shouting and cursing becomes abuse.

The abuse can also be intentional.

Some abusers use language and deeds to belittle or dismiss the victim. This conduct is done to damage a target’s personal self-image and self-esteem.

The abuser makes a conscious decision to damage the victim’s self-image and esteem in an effort to gain or retain power in a relationship.

In this case, emotional abuse is an attempt to control and contain the victim’s feelings, actions and choices.

The person wants you thinking so little of yourself, that you would never dare to imagine life could be better than it is with that person. They want you to lose confidence and hope, so you’ll settle with their wretched life.

Emotionally Abusive Relationships

Below are instances of emotionally abusive relationships. If your relationship conforms to any of these archetypes, you’re probably having your emotions abused.

Conflict is not occasional, but occurs often. The incidents take place behind closed doors or in a manner that is undetectable to onlookers. The damaging behavior becomes pervasive and part of the normal tone of the relationship.

In many cases, the abuser may not even be aware that this conduct is abusive.

Many times, abusers come from abusive backgrounds. To this individual, emotional abuse is how people relate to each other. Abuse becomes a cycle that is “normal” for them. If allowed to continue, even innocent comments begin to hurt the victim.

Emotional abuse is often done by those who love us. The abuser, either in a conscious way or not, uses this emotional bond to manipulate the victim’s behavior.

The victim’s emotional investment in making the relationship a success is turned around and used as a weapon to control behavior or extract payment in the form obedience. If you feel you’re being manipulated or controlled by your boyfriend or girlfriend, this may be done intentionally. They may be abusing your love and trust.

Abusers are often self-centered. They demand to be the focus of the victim’s attention. If the victim fails to satisfy expectations, he or she is attacked verbally and threatened with reprisals – either physical reprisals or emotional ones. Weaknesses are exploited to coerce compliance and maintain dominance.

If your partner points out your faults often, they are abusing your emotionally. They want you to feel bad about yourself, so they can manipulate you. This is no way to live a life and you can do better than them.

What are Some Common Tactics Used by Abusers?

Criticism becomes constant. One reason why emotional abuse is so difficult to detect, is that often well-placed criticism is essential and healthy in a relationship. The difficulty with abuse is that there is a line that is crossed, but we often have trouble deciding where that line is.

If the criticism is continual and is used to tear down a person’s self-image, self-esteem or sense of self-worth, it becomes abuse. In this case, the abuser brandishes an emotional weapon that controls a target’s actions thoughts or emotions. This control benefits the abuser, but it harms the victim.

Over time, the victim internalizes the criticism and suffers as a result.

Anger and Emotional Swings

Fits of anger are common tools of the offender. A person prone to fits of anger is abusive. They criticize or berate their victims.

One method to do this is to call into question a victim’s judgment or decision-making skills. The victim begins to second-guess their own actions: their basic ability to act apart from the abuser. This doubt creates a situation where the abuser controls the victim.

A desire to please someone and the need to feel secure in a relationship leads a victim to accept, and even rationalize, the abuse.

The use of verbal threats is also a warning sign that emotional abuse is at work in a relationship. Threats are used to coerce the weaker party in a relationship. Abusers may threaten to leave a relationship or abandon the partner.

This tactic keeps the victim off-balance and more willing to tolerate abuse to maintain a broken relationship at all costs. They might not have the energy to defend themselves constantly, so they begin to accept this kind of abuse. In time, resignation turns into belief that your partner is right.

Verbal threats are a serious sign of potential physical abuse, which often comes later in the relationship. These attacks are used to determine how much a victim can take. If they are allowed to continue, these threats become more serious. 

Eventually, the abuser acts on the threats and physical abuse becomes the new standard for the relationship. This is a kind of dosage, where you’re slowly indoctrinated into a controlling, harsh relationship. Your love is abused to put you under their control.

If you find you’re rationalizing your partner’s behavior, when you compare it to these and other hurtful behaviors, then you are a victim of emotional abuse. Act quickly to change this situation, before it reaches physical abuse or worse.

How to Stop Emotional Abuse

Once the victim recognizes emotional abuse and accepts they need to make a change, that person must confront the abuser. In many cases, the perpetrator may not even be aware that they are crossing a line. In almost all instances, this person secretly suffers from low self-esteem.

Insecurity forces them to build themselves up by tearing others down. Abusers tend to come from abusive backgrounds, though this isn’t always the case. Whatever their history, this behavior is what is normal to them.

When you are a victim of emotional abuse, confrontation helps the victim take back control. It sends a signal to the offender that their behavior is unacceptable, resetting the ground-rules for moving forward.

Confronting an abuser with their behavior is the first positive step in building self-esteem for the victimized. In this case, giving respect does not win you respect. You have to demand respect. Do that by setting firm boundaries.

Setting boundaries is also important. The victim needs to follow through with demands for change. Be prepared to abandon a damaged relationship and stand alone.

Sending a clear and firm signal to the offender is important. Failure to carry out the consequences of further abuse tells the abuser that the victim isn’t going to leave. In this case, the abuse is likely to escalate and create an even more dangerous situation.

Building Self-Esteem and Independence is Important

Building up self-esteem is critical to changing an abusive situation. Everyone makes mistakes. No one person in a relationship is always wrong. A former victim realizes this.

The whole world does not end if mistakes are made. Likewise, satisfying a partner is not the only reason for any person’s existence. Making mistakes is a vital step in our learning process. Mistakes are how we grow in life.

The healing process means appreciating your good decisions, too. This includes taking to heart these good decisions and your good qualities too. Allow for the possibility of disagreement with your partner.

It’s healthy to have different likes and dislikes from those of our partners. Diversity is the spice of life. If this can not happen, end the relationship.

Talk to Someone About It

Get perspective by bringing in a third opinion. The emotions involved in close relationships blur objectivity. Evaluating whether a relationship is abusive is often impossible for those involved in it.

This happens in non-abusive relationships, but abusive relationships have additional distortions, because whether unintentional or intentional, the abusive partner creates a situation that shocks the senses. Get an objective outside view from someone you trust.

Pay attention to this advice. This includes their criticism, as well.

Take Action on This Information

Problems never solve themselves. They do not simply disappear. It is important to demand change, then take corrective action to make that change possible.

If the abusive partner refuses to change, the relationship must come to an end. It’s as simple as that.

If the victim demands change and states that the relationship is going to end, if the change does not occur, it’s important that this promise is carried out. Don’t bluff. If the promise to leave is not fulfilled, then the abuser becomes confident that he or she can continue bad behavior or even escalate to physical violence.

It’s important to make a positive choice. Don’t be a victim. If demands are met and violence ends, all is well. If the emotional abuse resumes, the promise to leave must be carried out. It is time to go.

People need relationships to feel supported, loved, valued and respected. Any relationship that does not provide respect and support should most be ended. These relationships provide an opportunity to learn and to grow.

Maintain a healthy sense of self-worth and self-esteem, no matter what happens in your relationship. You are worthy of respect and honor, as a human being – no exceptions.

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